The third in the Caribbean Series of the edition of The Marcus Garvey
and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, the present volume
covers the period August 1921 to August 1922, twelve months that marked a
very dark hour for Garvey and the UNIA parent body. At the same time, it was
also a period of continuing growth and expansion of the movement within the
Caribbean basin and its associated territories.
The present volume extends from the second through the third
international conventions of the UNIA. The high point in the political calendar
of the UNIA, the annual August celebration-cum-confab was the time when
the eyes of the worldwide movement were focused on the organization’s
deliberations in New York. In the conventions of August 1921 and August
1922, roiling tensions within the leadership of the UNIA boiled over, pitting
Garvey against those whom he declared to be disloyal. The result was the
fracturing of the top leadership of the UNIA, including the trial and expulsion
of several key leaders. If this was not challenge enough, at the same time Garvey
was coming under increased external pressure as well as facing an acute crisis of
financial insolvency in the affairs of the Black Star Line.
In this weakened state, Garvey decided to pull back in effecting a strategic
retreat from his previous radicalism; in place of his earlier oppositional stance,
Garvey now proclaimed his loyalty to the selfsame governments that he had
previously criticized for oppressing blacks. In that sense, 1921–22 marked a kind
of political watershed.
One sign of the change became manifest on Garvey’s return to the
United States from his five-month sojourn in the Caribbean—a promotional
trip that originally had been planned to last for five weeks but which instead
stretched into five months, largely due to hostility on the part of the American
government which steadfastly refused to grant him a reentry visa. Garvey’s ship
stopped briefly in Belize (British Honduras) where he took the opportunity to
request a meeting with the British governor of the territory. Whatever Garvey
thought would emerge out of the meeting, it resulted in a severe grilling and
dressing down by the governor. Thrown on the defensive throughout the
ensuing interview, Garvey found himself disavowing and disowning statements
that he had previously made when he was confronted with them by the
governor in the form of copies of the Negro World newspaper; eventually, he
tried to regain the initiative by assuring the governor that he was “a loyal
subject.” “It is no desire of mine to be disloyal to any man,” Garvey declared,
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